1961 Gibson ES-330 TD, Sunburst

By Gibson

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Excellent, player's Gibson ES-330TD in a stunning Sunburst finish with dot inlays, ‘Mickey Mouse’ cutaways and two great sounding P-90s. Bought in the nineties by the previous owner, the guitar feels, sounds and plays every bit a great example of a workhorse Golden-era Gibson.

Released in 1959 as the successor to the ES-225, the ES-330 was an instantly popular model sharing styling cues from the recently released Thinline ES Range. Unlike the ES-335, ES-345 and ES-355 the ES-330 was a fully hollow instrument with a body/neck joint at the 16th fret. This gave the ES-330 a different feel and sound to the rest of the Thinline range. Like the ES-225 it was available in single (330T) and double (330TD) pickup options The model was popular throughout the sixties, selling well for Gibson with the model regularly out performing the rest of the thinline range. During it’s initial production run the ES-330TD would appear in the catalog from 1959 until 1972 with the single pickup ES-330 being phased out earlier in 1963.
Shipping totals show 542 Sunburst and 645 Cherry guitars left the factory in 1961.

The guitar is a great example and just what we like to see from a workhouse vintage guitar. The five digit serial number is firmly in the range accepted for a 1961 guitar. Constructed of a fully hollow thinline body with no center block it has the same dimensions as the rest of the Gibson Thinline range but with the neck joining the body at the 16th fret instead of the 19th. These features give the ES-330 a different feel to any other Thinline Gibson. The Mahogany bound neck has a Rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays, a feature that would change to small blocks during 1962. The nut appears correct but has been removed and the frets likewise appear original but dressed. The finishes offered by Gibson in 1961 were Cherry and Sunburst, the Sunburst finish looks great on this guitar with a some fading giving the guitar a characterful appearance. The lacquer has a wide irregular checking pattern to the guitar top and we suspect the top has had a clear over-spay in the past.

The neck profile is a slim C measuring 20.11mm at the first fret. The nut width measures 43.42mm. The individual single line Kluson tuners have been replaced with period correct single-line, 3-a-side examples. The opaque finish to the headstock/neck transition is not factory and although we cannot be positive why (as there is no evidence of any previous damage or repair) the likelihood is that it's the result of minor repair. The front of the headstock shows no signs of damage but there is evidence of different tuners being fitted previously. The guitar was purchased in this manner in the nineties. The P-90 pickups measure 8.07K and 8.19K in the neck and bridge respectively. The pots are CentraLab with two Sprague BlackBeauty capacitors. Solder joints are tidy and all looks correct throughout. The wide bevel pickguard is the correct type used between 1960 and c.’67. The Gold reflector knobs are correct but have lost their mirrored center giving the appearance of bonnet knobs from afar. The bridge fitted is a Nashville type with the strings anchored to the diamond tailpiece.

The guitar plays well, the frets have been dressed down but have life left. The neck has the aforementioned slim profile preferred by Gibson in the early 1960’s and the guitar weighs a featherweight 5.6lbs. The lightweight, hollow construction is a big part of the 330 sound with a loud acoustic voice and a lively amplified tone. The bridge pickup sounds snappy with bite and twang, the neck pickup giving big, warm and rounded tones and the middle position a perfect blend of the two that just favours the bridge.

This guitar is very hard to put down! It plays well, is full of character and the two P-90s sound just wonderful. The guitar comes in a later 60’s Gibson black and yellow case in fair cosmetic condition but missing the handle.